File Name: human nature and social order .zip
Although sociology is defined as the science of society, in reality it cannot deal with human groups, which are the immediate concern of its research, without in the end tackling the individual, the ultimate element of which these groups are composed. For society cannot constitute itself unless it penetrates individual consciousnesses and fashions them 'in its image and likeness'; so, without wanting to be over-dogmatic, it can be said with confidence that a number of our mental states, including some of the most essential, have a social origin. Here it is the whole that, to a large extent, constitutes the part; hence it is impossible to try to explain the whole without explaining the part, if only as an after-effect.
Some Marxists posit what they deem to be Karl Marx's theory of human nature , which they accord an important place in his critique of capitalism , his conception of communism , and his ' materialist conception of history '. Marx , however, does not refer to human nature as such, but to Gattungswesen , which is generally translated as 'species-being' or 'species-essence'.
According to a note from Marx in the Manuscripts of , the term is derived from Ludwig Feuerbach 's philosophy, in which it refers both to the nature of each human and of humanity as a whole. However, in the sixth Theses on Feuerbach , Marx criticizes the traditional conception of human nature as a species which incarnates itself in each individual, instead arguing that human nature is formed by the totality of social relations. Thus, the whole of human nature is not understood, as in classical idealist philosophy, as permanent and universal: the species-being is always determined in a specific social and historical formation, with some aspects being biological.
The sixth of the Theses on Feuerbach , written in , provided an early discussion by Marx of the concept of human nature.
It states:. But the essence of man is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In reality, it is the ensemble of the social relations. Feuerbach, who does not enter upon a criticism of this real essence is hence obliged :. Thus, Marx appears to say that human nature is no more than what is made by the 'social relations'.
Norman Geras 's Marx and Human Nature , however, offers an argument against this position. However, Marx makes statements where he specifically refers to a human nature which is more than what is conditioned by the circumstances of one's life. In Capital , in a footnote critiquing utilitarianism , he says that utilitarians must reckon with 'human nature in general, and then with human nature as modified in each historical epoch'.
While he is quite explicit that '[a]s individuals express their life, so they are. Hence what individuals are depends on the material conditions of their production',  he also believes that human nature will condition against the background of the productive forces and relations of production the way in which individuals express their life. History involves 'a continuous transformation of human nature',  though this does not mean that every aspect of human nature is wholly variable; what is transformed need not be wholly transformed.
Marx did criticise the tendency to 'transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason, the social forms springing from your present mode of production and form of property'. Some people believe, for example, that humans are naturally selfish - Immanuel Kant and Thomas Hobbes , for example.
Most Marxists will argue that this view is an ideological illusion and the effect of commodity fetishism : the fact that people act selfishly is held to be a product of scarcity and capitalism, not an immutable human characteristic. For confirmation of this view, we can see how, in The Holy Family Marx argues that capitalists are not motivated by any essential viciousness, but by the drive toward the bare 'semblance of a human existence'.
In the Manuscripts the young Marx wrote:. Man is directly a natural being. As a natural being and as a living natural being he is on the one hand endowed with natural powers, vital powers — he is an active natural being. These forces exist in him as tendencies and abilities — as instincts. On the other hand, as a natural, corporeal, sensuous objective being he is a suffering, conditioned and limited creature, like animals and plants.
That is to say, the objects of his instincts exist outside him, as objects independent of him; yet these objects are objects that he needs — essential objects, indispensable to the manifestation and confirmation of his essential powers.
In the Grundrisse Marx says his nature is a 'totality of needs and drives'. For Marx then, an explanation of human nature is an explanation of the needs of humans, together with the assertion that they will act to fulfill those needs. The German Ideology , chapter 3. There is another one Marx says 'It is true that eating, drinking, and procreating, etc.
However, when abstracted from other aspects of human activity, and turned into final and exclusive ends, they are animal. In several passages throughout his work, Marx shows how he believes humans to be essentially different from other animals. They themselves begin to distinguish themselves from animals as soon as they begin to produce their means of subsistence, a step which is conditioned by their physical organisation.
But do not a few other animals also produce aspects of their environment as well? The previous year, Marx had already acknowledged:. From these passages we can observe something of Marx's beliefs about humans. That they characteristically produce their environments, and that they would do so, even were they not under the burden of 'physical need' - indeed, they will produce the 'whole of [their] nature', and may even create 'in accordance with the laws of beauty'.
Perhaps most importantly, though, their creativity, their production is purposive and planned. Humans, then, make plans for their future activity, and attempt to exercise their production even lives according to them. Perhaps most importantly, and most cryptically, Marx says that humans make both their 'life activity' and 'species' the 'object' of their will. They relate to their life activity, and are not simply identical with it.
Michel Foucault 's definition of biopolitics as the moment when "man begins to take itself as a conscious object of elaboration" may be compared to Marx's definition hereby exposed. To say that A is the object of some subject B, means that B specified as an agent acts upon A in some respect.
Thus if 'the proletariat smashes the state' then 'the state' is the object of the proletariat the subject , in respect of smashing. It is similar to saying that A is the objective of B, though A could be a whole sphere of concern and not a closely defined aim.
In this context, what does it mean to say that humans make their 'species' and their 'lives' their 'object'? It's worth noting that Marx's use of the word 'object' can imply that these are things which humans produces, or makes, just as they might produce a material object.
If this inference is correct, then those things that Marx says about human production above, also apply to the production of human life, by humans. And simultaneously, 'As individuals express their life, so they are. What they are, therefore, coincides with their production, both with what they produce and with how they produce. The nature of individuals thus depends on the material conditions determining their production.
To make one's life one's object is therefore to treat one's life as something that is under one's control. To raise in imagination plans for one's future and present, and to have a stake in being able to fulfill those plans. To be able to live a life of this character is to achieve 'self-activity' actualisation , which Marx believes will only become possible after communism has replaced capitalism.
The transformation of labour into self-activity corresponds to the transformation of the earlier limited intercourse into the intercourse of individuals as such'. What is involved in making one's species one's object is more complicated see Allen Wood , pp. In one sense, it emphasises the essentially social character of humans, and their need to live in a community of the species. In others, it seems to emphasise that we attempt to make our lives expressions of our species-essence; further that we have goals concerning what becomes of the species in general.
The idea covers much of the same territory as 'making one's life one's object': it concerns self-consciousness, purposive activity, and so forth. It is often said that Marx conceived of humans as homo faber , referring to Benjamin Franklin 's definition of 'man as the tool -making animal' - that is, as 'man, the maker',  though he never used the term himself.
Above, we indicated that one of Marx's central contentions about humans was that they were differentiated by the manner in which they produce and that thus, somehow, production was one of humans' essential activities.
In this context, it is worth noting that Marx does not always address 'labour' or 'work' in such glowing terms. He says that communism 'does away with labour'.
It is one of the greatest misapprehensions to speak of free, human, social labour, of labour without private property. It is generally held that Marx's view was that productive activity is an essential human activity, and can be rewarding when pursued freely.
Marx's use of the words 'work' and 'labour' in the section above may be unequivocally negative; but this was not always the case, and is most strongly found in his early writing.
However, Marx was always clear that under capitalism, labour was something inhuman, and dehumanising. Marx's theory of history attempts to describe the way in which humans change their environments and in dialectical relation their environments change them as well. That is:. Further Marx sets out his 'materialist conception of history' in opposition to 'idealist' conceptions of history; that of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel , for instance. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organisation of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature.
Humans act upon the world, changing it and themselves; and in doing so they 'make history'. In the first place, it is part of the explanation for the growth of the productive forces , which Marx conceives of as the driving force of history. Secondly, the particular needs and drives of humans explain the class antagonism which is generated under capitalism.
It has been held by several writers that it is Marx's conception of human nature which explains the 'development thesis' Cohen, concerning the expansion of the productive forces, which according to Marx, is itself the fundamental driving force of history.
If true, this would make his account of human nature perhaps the most fundamental aspect of his work. Geras writes, , pp. It highlights that specific nexus of universal needs and capacities which explains the human productive process and man's organized transformation of the material environment; which process and transformation it treats in turn as the basis both of the social order and of historical change. Cohen , p. This is the most basic way in which they develop and express their human essence' see also, the quotation from Allen Wood above.
In his article Reconsidering Historical Materialism , however, Cohen gives an argument to the effect that human nature cannot be the premise on which the plausibility of the expansion of the productive forces is grounded.
The implication of this is that hence 'one might In one case, but not the other, the toil would be a self-alienating exercise of essential powers' p. Hence, 'historical materialism and Marxist philosophical anthropology are independent of, though also consistent with, each other' p. The problem is this: it seems as though the motivation most people have for the work they do isn't the exercise of their creative capacity; on the contrary, labour is alienated by definition in the capitalist system based on salary , and people only do it because they have to.
They go to work not to express their human nature but to find theirs means of subsistence. So in that case, why do the productive forces grow - does human nature have anything to do with it? The answer to this question is a difficult one, and a closer consideration of the arguments in the literature is necessary for a full answer than can be given in this article.
However, it is worth bearing in mind that Cohen had previously been committed to the strict view that human nature and other 'asocial premises' were sufficient for the development of the productive forces - it could be that they are only one necessary constituent. It is also worth considering that by see quotation above , he appears to consider that the problem is resolved.
Some needs are far more important than others. In The German Ideology Marx writes that 'life involves before everything else eating and drinking, a habitation, clothing and many other things'.
All those other aspects of human nature which he discusses such as 'self-activity' are therefore subordinate to the priority given to these. Marx makes explicit his view that humans develop new needs to replace old: 'the satisfaction of the first need the action of satisfying, and the instrument of satisfaction which has been acquired leads to new needs'.
Geras says of Marx's work that: 'Whatever else it is, theory and socio-historical explanation, and scientific as it may be, that work is a moral indictment resting on the conception of essential human needs, an ethical standpoint, in other words, in which a view of human nature is involved' , pp. Alienation, for Marx, is the estrangement of humans from aspects of their human nature. Since — as we have seen — human nature consists in a particular set of vital drives and tendencies, whose exercise constitutes flourishing, alienation is a condition wherein these drives and tendencies are stunted.
AJOL and the millions of African and international researchers who rely on our free services are deeply grateful for your contribution. Your donation is guaranteed to directly contribute to Africans sharing their research output with a global readership. Skip to main content Skip to main navigation menu Skip to site footer. This paper examines the contractarian theories of Hobbes and Locke in their attempts to identify the conditions for social order. Deploying a critical and comparative method, the paper identifies the failure of the two theories to recognize the complexity of human nature, a complexity which forecloses the plausibility of a descriptive straitjacket.
Fukuyama is famous for his contention that capitalist democracy has triumphed in the historical clash of ideas. In this ambitious new book, he argues that liberal democracy's social and moral foundations are now under assault from industrialism and technological change. Western democracies are buffeted by this "great disruption" as the information age and birth control bring more women into the work force, undermine family structures, and loosen social cohesion. Rising rates of crime, divorce, and illegitimacy are all part of this larger process of social breakdown as capitalism frays the social fabric and depletes a country's social capital. But Fukuyama remains optimistic.
Little is known about the psychological processes through which people connect to nature. From social psychology, we know that emotions play an essential role when connecting to others. In this article, we argue that social connectedness and connectedness to nature are underpinned by the same emotions. More specifically, we propose that social relational emotions are crucial to understanding the process through which humans connect to nature. Beside other emotions, kama muta Sanskrit: being moved by love might play a particular crucial role when connecting to nature. Future research should consider the role of social relational emotions in human-nature relationships.
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